Hydrocephalus is otherwise known as “water on the brain”. This medical condition is characterized by abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles of the brain. Cerebrospinal fluid is a clear and colorless bodily fluid that is normally found in the ventricular system around and inside the brain and spinal cord. This fluid normally acts as a buffer zone for the cortex, and provides mechanical and immunological protection for the brain. In hydrocephalus, there is too much of this fluid and it causes increased pressure inside the skull and enlargement of the head. Hydrocephalus is a serious condition that can also cause death.
Signs and symptoms of acute hydrocephalus
Acute hydrocephalus is the inflammation of the brain with effusion. This is one of the most common birth defects that affect one in every 500 births annually. Some children may develop hydrocephalus during the first two years of life. This group of patients accounts for about 6000 new cases. Symptoms of the disease usually include signs and symptoms of increased pressure inside of the skull. Symptoms usually include headaches, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness or even coma. In children, the eyes may appear to gaze downward; a child appears irritable, sleepy, may have seizures and may often vomit. Older children may express brief high-pitched cry, changes in memory and cognitive ability, changes in facial appearance, uncontrolled eye movements, loss of coordination and trouble walking, muscle spasms, slow growth, etc.
Causes of acute hydrocephalus
Normally, there is a balance between the production, circulation and absorption levels of cerebrospinal fluid. The body is typically able to regulate the levels of its own products naturally. However, sometimes this delicate balance may be disturbed. The resulting effect is an imbalance in the distribution of cerebrospinal fluid.
Sometimes, this occurs when the cerebrospinal fluid flow is blocked within the ventricular system. This type of hydrocephalus is known under the name non-communicating hydrocephalus.
Hydrocephalus can also be communicating, and result when there is inadequate cerebral fluid absorption. This may occur due to external compression or intraventricular mass lesions.
Normal pressure hydrocephalus is a third kind, which is most common in adult patients, especially those older than 60. This type of hydrocephalus results from an increase in the amount of cerebrospinal fluid that doesn’t cause any excess pressure inside the head.
Effects on overall health
Hydrocephalus can severely injure the brain and compromise cognitive and behavioral capacity of a patient. People with hydrocephalus usually have learning disabilities and short-term memory loss. Some people may also have motion and visual problems as well as the problems in coordination. One quarter of all patients with hydrocephalus develops epilepsy.